Webkinz Creative Director Answers Questions About Webkinz Friends!
With the surprise discovery of the new Facebook app Webkinz Friends, we immediately contacted the Creative Director at Webkinz for more information. We found that he is also the Creative Director for the Webkinz Friends project and that he was willing to answer any questions that we had for him.
We took a number of your own questions from the Webkinz Friends Forum and supplemented them with our own, for a total of 10 questions. Ganz plans to start officially promoting the Webkinz Friends game today, so expect a bunch of new players on Webkinz Friends and new friends here on Webkinz Insider!
If you're already deep into Webkinz Friends, please visit our Webkinz Friends Forum to help those who have questions and please contribute to our Webkinz Friends Wiki -- we need your help!
WI: Just to be clear, Webkinz Friends isn't a "new feature" of Webkinz World or in any way related to Webkinz World, right?
CD: Correct. Webkinz Friends is an all-new game set in the Webkinz “universe”. It can be played completely separately from Webkinz World (aka webkinz.com) and playing it doesn’t have any effect on your Webkinz World account.
WI: From what I can tell, Ganz is expanding the Webkinz-brand to a new market and age group, similar to the introduction of Webkinz, Jr. a few years ago. Can you explain the reasons behind the decision at Ganz to create a game within a social network like Facebook?
CD: Webkinz is a family brand. We have fans from 6-60+. Fans that were kids when Webkinz was young are now teenagers. And the number one online gaming platform for tweens, teens and adults is Facebook, like it or not. So the question was asked, how could we capture the Webkinz feel on this new platform? We took a lot of a core ideas of Webkinz – having a big family of pets, keeping them happy and creating a beautifully decorated personal space – and worked them into a game that also uses many of the characters and storylines from Webkinz World.
WI: Will you be releasing a version of Webkinz Friends that doesn't require Facebook, for younger fans of WW who still want to play? If so, will it have the same features and look? Will strategies from the Facebook game crossover?
CD: Yes we will. We think that the basic game play of Webkinz Friends can be fun for players of all ages. So I am proud to announce that Webkinz Friends is currently being developed for the iPad. The game play, missions, and prizes will be exactly the same and when new content is added to the Facebook version, it will be added to the iPad version as closely as possible. So if you want to play the game, but aren’t on Facebook, you’ll have a way to play coming later this summer.
WI: With the move to a FB App, is Ganz planning on eventually phasing out WW as we know it and moving completely to a Facebook App with Webkinz?
CD: No. A resounding no. Webkinz World has obviously been very successful for us and we are dedicated to continuing the Webkinz.com site. As you’ve seen, we released the collection event system recently, and we’ve got another cool “help your friends” feature coming in a few months. We’re also working on simplifying the game and improving performance. If anything, we see Webkinz Friends as helping bring a new wave of players into brand, which can only help Webkinz.com as well.
WI: Are there going to be any exclusive prizes that you can't get in WW/WKN?
CD: Yes. There are currently between 15-20 prizes that can be won in Webkinz Friends that aren’t in WW, and that can be sent to a Webkinz World account. We see this as an opportunity for family interaction. A parent playing Webkinz Friends can surprise their child playing in WW with a really cool prize.
WI: Right now, the pets just walk around outside on the street.. That's cool, but do you have plans to let them into the house, where they can interact with the furniture etc, like in Webkinz World?
CD: Yes, definitely. First off we’re going to make the pets more interactive outside, then we’ll be adding them to the interiors. We naturally love our pets, and love the nurturing aspect of Webkinz, so we have big plans to enhance this aspect of the game.
WI: Currently Webkinz Friends is explicit that plush codes are needed if you'd like to use a code to adopt a pet, are there plans for eStore pets to be adoptable in Webkinz Friends? If an eligible pet is first adopted in Webkinz Friends (using a code), will that code still be valid in Webkinz World?
CD: It is likely that we’ll add eStore, Signature, and our virtual prize pets at some point. We also currently do not accept codes from Birds or Fish, which we may or may not add in the future. As for the question about using codes, the answer is “yes”. Any code that is adopted in Webkinz Friends can still be used in Webkinz World. It’s like getting two pets for the price of one ;).
WI: This game is beautiful, amazingly-detailed and more polished than expected for a Beta. How long was the development cycle for the game, from idea inception until now?
CD: For building a full game, the development cycle was actually pretty short. Two factors really helped here. First, we came up with a strong game design and stuck with it. While we did make changes as the game went along, we tried our hardest to keep these to a minimum. Second, we had a wealth of Webkinz assets and experience to draw from. Creating a game in a whole new world with all new graphics and all new characters takes a lot longer than diving into a world that you’ve known and loved for 8 years.
I do have to tell people that as we are in Beta, expect changes. The order of missions, prices of items, times of harvests and other aspects of the game are all up for editing as we watch how the game is played.
WI: Does Ganz have plans for any other Facebook games?
CD: Yes we do. Facebook is such a strong platform for social gaming that it makes a great place to build games for. We will be announcing our next Facebook game in just a few weeks, and I’m sure that it will be a big surprise.
WI: Speaking of other games, the Amazing World website was launched over a year ago and we haven't heard anything.. Any news?
CD: First off, let me say that I am dying to get more information out about Amazing World and to have everyone see the truly stunning game world that we’ve created. Unfortunately, we’re still a little ways away from that. What I can say is that the game is complete. Everything that we’re going to release at launch is in there and we’re just testing, bug fixing and balancing, so that everything plays the way we want it to.
I’m sure everyone wants to know what the big delay was. In short, there is a big difference between an okay game and a great game. We just weren’t happy with where we were at in 2011. So we’ve added a ton more game play, refined almost every aspect of the game and given the interface a total overhaul. It was a ton of work and I give all of the kudos to our developers, artists and game, content, and level designers for turning the game from “pretty cool” to “WOW!!!!”
Amazing World WILL be launched this summer. Stay tuned, it’s going to be a big year for Ganz.
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- Mommy Bear